Billy Hamilton left the game this afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers after taking a pitch off of his hand while bunting. The tests came back and he has a broken thumb, which will keep him out for the rest of the season. While that is never a good thing, it does present the Cincinnati Reds with an opportunity that they may not have otherwise had. Phillip Ervin hasn’t spent much time in the Majors this season, but when he has played, he’s produced.

Outside of a terrible month of May with the Triple-A Louisville Bats, Phillip Ervin hit well this season. That’s carried into his big league time where he’s now hitting .391/.440/. 696 with two walks and four strikeouts in 25 plate appearances. He took over for Billy Hamilton after he exited the game and went 1-4 with a stolen base. With Hamilton healthy, he was likely to get a large majority of the starts in center, with Ervin likely finding limited action around the outfield or as a pinch hitter or pinch runner over the final month.

Looking forward to the 2018 season, the Cincinnati Reds don’t have a clear backup option in center field. Scott Schebler isn’t a center fielder. Jose Peraza may be capable of being a center fielder, but at least for right now it would seem that unless the team brings back Zack Cozart, Peraza will be the teams shortstop next season. Phillip Ervin has spent plenty of time in center field in the minor leagues. He’s also played in the corners, with more of that time coming in left than in right field.

The organization should, and likely will at this point, take a long look at Phillip Ervin in center field. He’s a 60 runner on the scouting scale, which is plus speed, but that’s true for nearly every center fielder in baseball. It’s a position where plus speed is a requisite. At the Major League level teams have access to the player tracking software that they just don’t have in the minor leagues. While there’s internal scouting that does happen, being able to track exactly how much ground a guy can cover thanks to the system in the Majors let’s you get a better idea of exactly how a player stacks up to other fielders around the league.

At the very least the team should have a better idea of whether or not Phillip Ervin can possibly fill the role next season as a true back up center fielder if needed, if nothing else. With a strong month in the field and at the plate, perhaps it can put him into the conversation next spring as possibly a guy worth taking a real look at as a starting player. This may not be something that they could have done without the injury to Billy Hamilton. Hopefully it will provide the organization with the information they need and let them head into the offseason with a better plan because of it.

31 Responses

  1. Simon Cowell

    I simply don’t agree that keeping billy as a starter just for his excellent defense. If Ervin can have a solid OBP that should be the key ingredient to helping make this decision. I also don’t agree that Ervin would be a under league average defensively as a center fielder. Will he be as good as Hamilton? Probably not. But I’m sure he would make Drew Stubbs proud.

  2. MikeD

    I agree Simon. I also feel like the Reds keep hoping that Billy is going to become a hitter and I think that time is up. Exciting as he can be, he hurts the Reds in the leadoff spot. If the Reds can make a deal that gives them value, I would go with another option in center. Otherwise, I would bat Billy 9th. His OBP is just not going to be good enough for the leadoff spot.

    • The Duke

      I would assume Winker gets PT in the majors before the guy who just hit under .220 in AA.

  3. Mike D

    Gaffer, I don’t think it’s that simple. I am pretty sure that Williams and Price will both feel the pressure of winning and while the Reds are pretty sound offensively, they can be better. Replacing Cozart will be the biggest issue, both in the field and at the plate. I am still of the opinion that 3 years, 36 million would be a good move. Not sure if he takes it, but he seems like a guy that wants to be there.

    • Simon Cowell

      I agree. And if his age catches up with him during that new contract period he can always work out as a late inning defensive replacement or a solid bench player.

    • Wes

      Here’s the list of MLB players in order that need a spot- cozarts spot-
      Scooter (who’s hitting better)
      Tool Shed

      Hard to imagine cozart s in reds future plans

      • MK

        Think you have to be in big leagues to be an MLB player. Alex, Alfredo and Shed are not MLB players.

      • wes

        They will be over next 3 years if you lock Cozart up for 3 and guarantee him a roster spot. Mesc and Bailey make a ton of money and have Guar roster spots. How’s that working out?

  4. daTrojan

    i really dont think Billy should be judged just by BA alone,a gold glove .250 hitting center fielder is fine with a good supporting cast, the reason that everyone is focusing on him is because he is an 8 or 9 hole hitter
    IMO replacing Hamilton is low on the priority list, consistancy from the rotation alone next year makes this a dangerous team

    • MikeinSoCal

      I tend to agree with you for the most part. If everyone else does their share, like they did this year, the team can compete offensively. But then you have to ask yourself can Gennett duplicate what he has done and how much will we miss Cozart. If the pitching clicks the Reds can hang in there. I’ve always thought that Hamilton would do better if he were allowed to bat right handed all the time. Switch hitting does not help his game IMO. He doesn’t bunt, slap hit, do those things that the bosses thought he would do as a switch hitter. I know the stats probably don’t show him as that great of a right handed hitter either but I would like to see him try.

    • Simon Cowell

      He would not cost the Reds wins. He would cost the Reds dollars to sign once his arbitration gets up there. Ervin is a rookie this year. So we’ll have not only have lower cost moving forward but more years of control. We could unload Hamilton to a team that actually needs a gold glove center fielder…. we don’t. We might be able to get some decent low A or AA pitching in there.

    • Andy

      I agree with this mostly. Overall, Billy isn’t a liability. The Reds haven’t been maximizing his abilities. Ideally I don’t think he should start everyday. I think the Reds should be using him like the Royals used Jarrod Dyson in their World Series years — as a spot starter (batting 8/9), late game defensive replacement (especially if they are winning by 2+ runs), or pinch runner. He would get on the field 100+ games a year and get 250+ PA. Doug’s points about Ervin are central to the Reds being able to do this. Can Ervin be the other 60% of this platoon (starting most days, playing solid D, getting on base above league average)? Hopefully, we’ll get more info in the coming weeks. The Reds/Price also haven’t shown a lot of roster creativity/flexibility, so I have doubts that they would try something like this. But a guy’s got to dream, right?

      • Hoosierbadger

        I agree. I think you could use BHam and Ervin interchangeably. Hamilton makes the perfect late game defensive replacement in games Ervin starts that the Reds lead. You could sub in Ervin as a late game offensive replacement in games Hamilton starts that the Reds are losing. Ervin could also get some starts in the other OF positions. The Reds could have a lot of flexibility, but it assumes Ervin continues to produce and get in base.

  5. Cooooop

    Price said 10 day then re eval of Billy billy Billy Barew, wish rod Carew! Lol

  6. MikeD

    Billy’s batting average would not be an issue if his OBP were better. He needs to bat 9th if he’s only going to get on base as little as he does.

    • RedsinWashSt

      Exactly he needs to have a 350 obp or above. As far as being a spot starter, pinch runner and defensive replacement that is fine if that is how he gets paid but because he has been a starter he will demand starter pay. We would probably be better off trading him but unfortunately we are not sure if we have a replacement. Hoping that Ervin gets a chance the next month to find out for sure.

  7. Brad

    The only reason to put someone on 10-day DL in September is if you don’t trust the manager to not use an injured player.

    I’m fine will Billy as the ‘everyday’ guy. But I think that term needs to be reconsidered within Reds organization. Playing 4-6 starts a week counts. Give Ervin 2 starts in CF, if Winker is around, get him 3-4 starts per week. I’d prefer that one of Ervin or Winker are on big league roster at any given time. Impossible to get 5 OF enough at bats but doable for 4. Also, I would prefer to see Hamilton bat 7-9. Prefer 9 as lead off guy 2nd time around.

  8. Sandheel

    How about Castillo’s last performance of the season?

    Barring tragedy, we have to feel good about him in the rotation next year.

  9. Cguy

    Great game by Deke McGuire (8 innings, 13K), Van Meter provides the offense (4 for 4), plus great save by Weiss as Pensacola wins 2-0

  10. Wes

    Billy’s got to be main option going into next season but Ervin can take a go at some playing time of his by performing this month. I like Billy but am cool w his role being diminished some w right replacement and Ervin has that potential.

    Also maybe last shot for Schebler. If he gets some playing time at center and can hold his own maybe he can stick around next year while sorting everything out. If Ervin earns spot as 4th of for next year then schebler might end up being odd man out the door.

    • Simon Cowell

      I don’t get the hate on Schebler not at all. Last shot? He has a nice OBP and is closing in on 30 homers for the season. How can that possibly translate to last shot?

      • Andy

        Schebler is turning me into a believer this year. If he closes out the year on a high note, I think the Reds should let him keep singing in RF. The OF looks a little crowded though, so maybe they can extract some value out of Duvall with a trade. Winker absolutely has to play everyday next year.

      • wes

        Duvall leads the majors in outfield assists. In 2016 he had more RBI than Schebler has in his whole career. They are close to same age. There’s not comparison to the two- one is proven and one is a 27 year old prospect still that’s never played a full season.

        Home run specialists, if you want to call Schebler that, have very little value in MLB. So Schebler likely has very little trade value if any at all.

        Schebler was a 20 some rounder and the only reason he plays over Winker and Ervin is because hes older and got to MLB first. Both of those guys, who were former first rounders, need at bats and Schebler is in the way. So if he can’t play center then you send Winker to minors OR carry 2 RF’s. Schebler has to go. He may make it somewhere else, but he’s only in the way in Cincy.

      • RFM

        A few things about Schebler:

        He’s still 26, until late October. He’s played 220 MLB games, with 774 plate appearances, well over a full season. It’s not his age 27 season. He’s nearly two years younger than Duvall, and now carries an extra year of team control over Duvall.

        If his age IS such a concern, how do you so easily write off Duvall only finding big league success in his age 27 season, younger than Schebler is now? Duvall has a lower career BA and OBP than Schebler, despite breaking through at a later age. This year, their OPS+ is basically tied (105 vs 104). If Schebler is a ‘homerun specialist’, Duvall absolutely is one also, only one who strikes out more and walks less.

        Schebler was a late draft pick, as he was unexpected to sign but eventually did for $300,000, well above normal value of such a late pick. That’s a silly thing to hold against a guy who has indisputably outperformed expectation of his draft slot. He’s got a ton of power, good plate discipline, good speed. He’s not starting just because he’s gotten here first, he’s starting because he’s shown he’s a good everyday MLB corner outfielder, just like Duvall. Duvall has a better arm for highlight reel throws, but Schebler has much better speed and range. Overall Duvall and Schebler are a whole lot more similar than they are different, with nearly everything that can be said about one (aside from arm and speed) applying to the other.

        Jesse Winker does need to play everyday next year, but it’s pretty crazy to give up on Schebler as a bust while embracing Duvall as a star in the process.

        If I had to trade Duvall or Schebler I’d definitely trade Duvall. He’s older, has less service time, and will probably get more in return because he’s more ‘proven’… and some team might overvalue his throwing arm, which teams will stop running on eventually (as they did with Jay Bruce). There’s plenty of reason to expect Scott Schebler to be a more valuable hitter and player going forward. His value is at worst pretty darn comparable today.

  11. Bill

    I expect Peraza will get the bulk of available time in CF and Ervin will mix in from time to time.

    • wes

      I’m cool with that! If Peraza is a better alternative than Billy as everyday CF then that clears up room in IF.

  12. Heyclammy

    A nice defense of Schebler RFM. Both have value but I agree with your analysis. I’m sure the Reds will give Ervin every chance to make the team next year if he shows he can handle centerfield.

    I agree with Billy hitting ninth and I would hit Scooter leadoff.